Greta Thunberg does not need any introduction - she is arguably the most inspirational young climate activist in the world. She certainly did not expect the fame when she started her #Fridaysforfuture movement (or also known as “Skolstrejk för klimatet”, which means “school strike for climate” in Swedish) on her own back in 2018.
However, like most celebrities, politicians, royalties and many others in the spotlight, Greta Thunberg also has to deal with the problem of misuse of rights, where impostors would take advantage of her international recognition by using her name or the #FridaysForFuture movement for personal or commercial reasons without her consent.
Last summer, a man named Daniel Seiffert was made an application for registration of her name as a trade mark in Germany.
"Greta Thunberg” as trade marks
As a result, in January 2020, Greta announced via her Instagram account, that she had no choice but to apply for registration of a series of trade marks such as “Greta Thunberg”, “Fridays For Future”, “Skolstrejk för klimatet” in order to:
> protect her movement and its activities; and
> help her pro bono legal team to take actions against the unauthorised use of her name or the name of her movement which is not in line with her values and the objectives of her movement.
Greta Thunberg and her family have now set up Stiftelsen a foundation called The Greta Thunberg and Beata Ernman Foundation to promote ecological, climatic and social sustainability as well as mental health.
So far, her foundation has filed three EU trade mark applications i.e. GRETA THUNBERG [Word], FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE [Word] and SKOLSTREJK FÖR KLIMATET [Word], all covering classes 35 (advertising etc), classes 36 (insurance; financial affairs; etc), 41 (Education; etc) and 42 (Providing scientific information in the field of climate change and global warming; etc).
Why registering for a trade mark is the right move?
Greta’s application for the registration her name and the names of her movement was the right choice. Without a trade mark registration, it would be more difficult, time consuming and onerous to stop misuse, and to challenge a trade mark application of a mark that is identical, if not similar, to her marks. This is because the legal procedures in handling infringements of registered rights or opposing a trade mark application are often a lot more straightforward than if you were relying on unregistered rights.
For instance, brand owners or famous individuals who have registered their names as trade marks are able to more effectively:
> prevent misuse of their names in fraudulent activity such as phishing and scams;
> Prevent misuse by businesses who seek to ride on the coat-tail of their fame by using their names to market and sell their goods and services.
This kind of behaviour is not only misleading to the public, but could also damage one's brand and name massively. This is particularly so in the case where the quality of the goods is poor or unsafe, or like in Greta’s case, the use does not align with her values and the aims of her movement.
By not registering your brand as a trade mark, you are taking the risk that it would be registered by someone else and potentially prevent you from using your own brand for good.
Having said so, brand owners should always prioritise registrations of their trade marks. The registration process is inexpensive and will provide right holders with the exclusivity of the use of the registered marks.However, we understand that the decision in choosing which classes and/or in which countries to file the applications can be very tricky. At Stobbs, we have the expertise and the experience to help you regardless the size of your business and your budget.